Lewis and Harris Ladies ready for cup final as they withdraw from league

editorial image

Since making the leap into the Highlands and Islands Womens Football League the teen-powered Lewis and Harris Womens FC have racked up scorelines which look like phone numbers.

Their simply brilliant maiden campaign in competitive mainland football continued at the weekend, as they swaggered and strolled into the Highlands and Islands League Cup final, with another monstrous victory when they hammered Inverness Caley Thistle 13-0 in the semi-final.

Shana MacPhail and Mary Macleod shared eight of the goals, with four each on a day where Lewis and Harris even played most of the second-half with only ten players, after skipper Anne Louise Stewart went off to protect an injury.

Watching from the touchline at Millburn Academy were the ladies of Inverness Clachnacuddin FC who will meet them in the cup final and they will have been impressed by the attacking prowess of the island girls, who shifted the ball from back to front quickly, crisply and precisely.

Caley had made the trip across the Minch to play Lewis and Harris in June and had returned on the ferry nursing a 5-0 defeat in the league and the early signs in this cup clash were encouraging for the Inverness bench with the opening 10-minutes suggesting a much tighter match might be on the cards.

A simple ball over the top caught the island defence napping and gave the ICT striker a one on one opportunity against keeper Hollie McEwan. The ball sat up invitingly to be hammered on the bounce but it was thundered against Hollie from close range as she protected the Lewis and Harris clean sheet.

It was an encouraging opening spell for Inverness Caley who then won a hat-trick of corners in quick succession but they didn’t make their early dominance stick and they allowed Lewis and Harris to grow in confidence and take a grip of the game,

Inverness saw their early joy soured when their No.9 was carried off after a lengthy delay while the break in play gave Lewis and Harris the chance to regroup and from the restart they never looked back.

Leanne Macdonald had their first real sight of goal from 16 yards but fired straight at the ICT keeper.

But moments later it was 1-0 as MacPhail bagged the first of her four goals after winning a loose ball in midfield and riding a series of half hearted challenges she moved into shooting range before finding the bottom corner from 20-yards with her trusty left peg.

Wide on the right Mary Macleod’s power, strength and pace left a trail of Inverness defenders trailing in her wake as she bombed past three before picking out Hollie Martin at the back post but the left-back prodded wide from close range.

Macleod also passed up a good chance after Shana slipped a pass between the Inverness centre backs but Mary fired across goal and the wrong side of the post.

But the visitors pressure was building and it wasn’t long before they broke through again with a second goal. Mary Macleod delivered a corner which curled so wickedly it was as if it flew into the ICT box on a broomstick where Annie Maclenann was left in acres of space to steer a header into the net from six yards.

Hollie Martin fired home from the edge of the box for 3-0 as the ICT keeper - who made a number of good saves all game long - made a mess of it and allowed the ball to squirm through her fingers.

It was all one-way traffic now and a poor kick out was won by the tigerish Ann Mairi Macleod who surged forward and forced a save from the busy keeper.

Mary Macleod had the last chance of the first-half as she capitalised on great footwork from Shana who skipped around flailing ICT feet before sending her pal through but Mary was denied by more heroics from the keeper.

If the first-half had been tough on the Inverness girls then worse, much, much worse was to come in the second-half as a further TEN goals rained into their net in a scintillating second-45.

Mary Macleod was again denied in the opening minute of the half as her pace took her galloping away from the defence but the Inverness keeper bravely raced off her line to make a block as Mary allowed a wry smile as her wait for a goal continued.

She needed have feared as she finally had her name on the scoresheet moments later as she followed up Jessica Macleod’s effort which smacked the post and bundled over the line from close range.

The same two players combined for No.5 but in reverse this time as Mary assisted Jessica who fought for the ball in the box before thundering a fierce drive into the net.

Mary again laid on the sixth goal with a swirling corner kick for Annie Maclennan who again didn’t have to jump or even challenge anyone to nod into the empty net from the middle of the six-yard box.

Mary made it 7-0 with a dipping shot from 16 yards which whizzed over the keepers gloves and dropped under the crossbar before Shana netted the eighth. Again it was Shana’s dancing toes and quick feet which saw her shift the ball from side to side, bamboozling ICT defenders to create a yard of space before she unleashed a piledriver with her less favoured right boot which almost burst the net.

Shana completed her hat-trick and bagged Lewis and Harris’ ninth goal with a header from another inviting corner from Mary Macleod. Mary then completed her hat-trick after a superb slide rule ball from boss-in-boots Catherine Anne Macleod who was making a rare playing appearance.

Catherine Anne claimed another assist as he teed up Shana for her fourth of the day with the teen flicking the ball into the air with her first touch before volleying high beyond the keeper’s flailing reach with her second.

Shana also had the woodwork wobbling with another shot as it was all too easy for Lewis and Harris who had played much of the second-half with only ten players after Anne Louise Stewart had gone off to protect an injury. Lewis and Harris had only travelled with one sub - Catherine Anne Macleod - who had been called into action early on when Leanne Macdonald had suffered a pulled groin.

Mary Macleod made it 13-0 before the end with a tap in after Jessica Macleod had raced into the box and rolled the ball across the face of the box.